I remember sitting with my classmates at the Goldman School of Public Policy in our 8 a.m. economics class the morning after the 2016 presidential election, feeling frustration, fear and hopelessness as we tried to process what happened. As students committed to positive social change, many of us felt lost in this new reality, and at that moment, preparing for the future alone didn’t seem like enough.
Throughout the following weeks and months, we grew determined to make sure this never happened again. But we were unsure of how we could use our privilege as students to support the growing social movement against the discriminatory policies President Trump’s administration was pushing.
In the spring, we learned about a way we could channel our energy towards something productive. Resistance School, founded in March 2017 by a group of students at Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government, seeks to galvanize the growing pool of people looking for ways to fight back against the current administration by producing free online video sessions led by organizing experts. Over the next couple of months, some of my classmates and I worked with Resistance School founders to launch Resistance School @ Berkeley.
Our mission is to put practical tools in the hands of organizers, activists, and everyday people working to promote fairness, equity, and inclusivity in their communities. With that mindset, our team expanded to include students from across our campus who are dedicated to protecting and empowering those marginalized by intolerance and injustice.
We have partnered with the Blum Center for Developing Economies to form an IdeaLab, a multidisciplinary collaboration between UC Berkeley graduate and undergraduate students working on developing a common application, product or service. Our group has also attained sponsorship through the ASUC and started a UC Berkeley crowdfunding campaign this month.
Our first session, Transforming Resistance into a Social Movement, has already been viewed nearly 5,000 times on Facebook since its release earlier this month. Led by UC Berkeley professor Saru Jayaraman, the co-founder and co-director of the Restaurant Opportunities Centers United, this session explored core concepts of organizing theory, provided a case study from her experience and identified concrete steps to organize across communities and issues.
Our next session, with UC Berkeley professor and former secretary of labor Robert Reich, goes live on Thursday. Our lineup for the semester will focus on effective communication and will also include sessions led by author and ASO communications principal Anat Shenker-Osorio on Nov. 2 and Ian Haney López, Earl Warren professor of public law at UC Berkeley, on Nov. 16.
We have also created an online space for organizers and activist to engage with each other called RS Town Square, hosted on our Slack platform. By providing a digital space for organizers and activists to interact, we hope to build a bridge between the classroom and the leading grassroots and to promote cross-issue organizing between disparate groups.
Although Resistance School @ Berkeley was founded in response to Trump’s election, we acknowledge that people in the United States have been battling the oppression and marginalization of their communities for generations. But the 2016 election catalyzed the need, possibly more than ever, to empower those fighting against the imbalanced power structures that have put so many American livelihoods at risk. As students at a leading public university, we have access to a deep bench of political experts and thinkers. With Resistance School @ Berkeley, we want to make those resources more widely available.
Countless groups around the country are working tirelessly every day to combat discriminatory policies and fight for social and economic justice. Their work protects and empowers us, our classmates, our neighbors, our families and our friends. We are tapping into our resources to offer them additional tools that will help them further the tremendous work they already do.
We started Resistance School @ Berkeley to address a fundamental asymmetry between progressive organizers and the people trying to keep them down. Those fighting for a more equitable society don’t always have deep coffers or armies of lobbyists—but they do have numbers on their side. We hope that Resistance School @ Berkeley can tap into that network and knowledge base to help them reach their full potential and connect with other engaged people across the United States and around the world.
Christian Miller, co-founder of Resistance School @ Berkeley, is a graduate student in the concurrent master of public policy and master of science in energy and resources program at UC Berkeley.